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Study Questions: Shakespeare's Sonnet Selections

Vocabulary: sonnet, couplet, octave, meter, rhyme

Know the rhyme scheme for an English Sonnet. Be able to explain why the Earl of Surrey and other adapters changed the older Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet's rhyme scheme. Be able to list the rhyme scheme

Sonnet 18: What question does the poetic speaker ask himself in the opening lines of this sonnet? What does he ultimately decide about whether or not this comparison is a good one? What are some of the problems with a summer's day that the poet discusses in the first eight lines? What does the poet mean when he says, "But thy eternal summer shall not fade"? The poet also promises, "Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade." Does this seem possible or plausible as a promise? The last two lines, however, limit the promise to "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." What does the "this" refer to? How does "this" continue to give this young woman life--even four hundred years after Shakespeare wrote the poem?

Sonnet 116: TBA

Sonnet 130: Describe the speaker's "mistress" in this poem. What color is her skin? Her breasts? Her cheeks? Her hair? What is the texture of her hair like? What does her breath smell like? What does her voice sound like? When his mistress walks, where does she walk? How does this contrast (apparently) with what other poets claim about their mistresses? To what sort of supernatural being do they apparently contrast their lovers? Why does the poet think his love is rare? How does the poet play with conventional stereotypes of love poetry? How is the speaker's lover an inversion or parody of the petrarchan and medieval lover?

A. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

B. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.



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